One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The person who is third in importance, after the protagonist and deuteragonist, in an ancient Greek drama.
- ‘As most plays called for three speaking actors, the protagonists probably chose their own second and third players - the deuteragonist and tritagonist.’
- ‘At this moment it has already become clear that Sonny is the protagonist and Sal the tritagonist.’
- ‘The third actor was called the tritagonist, and he played the smaller roles in each play, usually messengers and shepherds.’
- ‘In Agamemnon, there can be but little doubt that the protagonist impersonated only Clytemnestra, leaving the deuteragonist the briefer parts of the Herald, Cassandra, and Ægisthus, and to the tritagonist the Watchman and Agamemnon.’
- ‘These terms originate in classical Greek drama, in which a tenor would be assigned the role of protagonist, a baritone the role of deuteragonist, and a bass would play the tritagonist.’
Late 19th century: from Greek tritagōnistēs, from tritos ‘third’ + agōnistēs ‘actor’.
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